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In Pursuit of Balance Tasting: March 10, San Francisco

IPOBlogo.jpgThere are public wine tasting events, and then there are public wine tasting events. Many consist of massive mob scenes where hundreds of wines get poured by hundreds of winemakers to thousands of attendees. There's nothing wrong with such events. Indeed, I regularly encourage my readers to attend these massive tastings for the singular reason that they represent an incredible opportunity to educate one's palate and discover new favorite wines.

But on the other hand, there exists another kind of wine tasting event. One that offers, shall we say, a more curated view of the wine world, with higher quality wines poured for a smaller group of tasters.

In Pursuit of Balance has now entered its third year of existence, and by now has established itself as one of the highest quality wine tastings available to the public in San Francisco and New York. This, of course, is my personal opinion, and I felt the same way even before I was asked to moderate a panel at this year's tasting in San Francisco. Despite a potential appearance of bias in this case, I can't recommend the tasting highly enough for anyone who enjoys California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made in a more old-world style.

The last few words of the above paragraph remain the reason that this tasting continues to provoke a certain amount of controversy and, if truth be told, rancor. The organizers originally conceived it as an intimate tasting where they could showcase the wines they loved -- those being united by what they believed was a dedication to "balance." The initial event ended up mobbed by the trade and public, and so what began as a little experiment has become one of the hottest tickets in the California wine scene. But not everyone can pour their wines at this event, and not everyone agrees with the definition of "balance" implied by the wines at the tasting, or the opinions on the subject offered by the organizers. The use of the word balance (a good one in my opinion) to describe the qualities that unite those wines selected for the tasting has the unfortunate side effect of implying a lack of balance in those wines not in attendance.

I don't see a particular way around this problem, but that doesn't mean it hasn't annoyed some in the industry, who see the event as polarizing and clique-ish. Be that as it may, the tasting offers an opportunity to taste some incredibly stellar wines, many of which, I have to say, are among my favorites in California.

To put a finer point on it, I don't really know of an event in California where the quality of wines across the board is higher than this one. Again, one man's opinion, but there you have it.

Thirty-one wineries, selected by the organizers, pour Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the two varieties most historically in need of a "balance correction" according to the organizers) this year at the Bluxome Street winery. The public tasting takes place in the afternoon, and in the morning, the event features two seminars (sadly sold out at this point). One about the effects of vine age on wine, run by yours truly, and the other a discussion of what "ripeness" actually means, run by my friend Jamie Goode.

You might not be able to get into the seminars, but you should definitely go to the tasting. Many of the wineries pouring have such small productions that this event ends up being one of the very few times their wines are available to be tasted by the wider public.

Don't miss it.

In Pursuit of Balance 2014
Monday, March 10
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Bluxome Street Winery
53 Bluxome Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Tickets for the tasting run $95 per person and will likely sell out, so get yours online soon.

The venue can easily be accessed by most public transportation options including CalTrain, MUNI, and BART. Parking can sometimes be tough in the area, though at 6:00 PM it will be easier to find a spot than earlier in the day.

My usual tips for such public tastings apply: drink a lot of water; come with food in your stomach; wear dark clothes in the event of accidental spills; and spit out most of the wine if you want to learn anything.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud